CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State auditors are questioning whether the consultants responsible for implementing a multimillion-dollar, all-encompassing computer system are living up to their contractual responsibility to teach state workers how to use it.
If not, the state Legislative Auditor’s office concludes, the failure has resulted in state employees not being able to run the system and the need to spend millions of additional dollars on other high priced consultants.
The Legislative Auditor recommends the state board that oversees the installation of the computer system known as wvOasis should begin documenting instances of possible non-compliance with state contract provisions and consult the Attorney General about any possible legal action.
State Auditor J.B. McCuskey, whose office is separate from the Legislative Auditor, told legislators on Sunday afternoon that progress has already been made on these issues.
“I’m happy to tell you that the recommendations and the problems outlined in here are things we’ve been working on since Day 1. The knowledge transfer is happening. We are actually pretty far down the line,” McCuskey said.
“We had people who wanted to make it a priority, and it happened.”
The project, wvOasis, started its planning phases in 2010 and its initialsteps in 2011.
Its initial cost estimate was $98 million, but the state Auditor’s office — which is separate from the Legislative Auditor — has said complications and delays have meant blowing past that amount and about $50 million more.
The project has been meant to update and inter-connect the state’s various, aging computer systems into something called an “Enterprise Resource Planning System.” It’s supposed to help the state’s computer systems talk to each other, to help state employees better track data and to manage those with whom the state does business, such as vendors and retirees.
But because state government is big, so is wvOasis.
It’s so big and crosses so many different areas of government that a three-headed monster — the governor, the Auditor and the state Treasurer — share responsibility on a board that oversees the project. A 16-member steering committee was set up to report to them.
The state contracted with a company called CGI to be the vendor deploying the work but also contracted with another consultant called ISG to help the state understand the process.
Those companies are supposed to pass on their knowledge to state workers. There’s even a name for that — a “knowledge transfer.”
That’s what the Legislative Auditor’s office says the consultants haven’t effectively done.
Here’s the summary of what auditors presented to lawmakers Sunday during interim meetings:
“In 2014 and 2015, the Enterprise Resource Planning Board paid CGI for knowledge transfer services that, to this day, are not fully rendered. These services would have allowed the state to independently operate the wvOasis system. As a result, the board has had to pay high-priced consultants to operate the system and to provide the knowledge transfer not provided by CGI.”
This has been an ongoing problem, as auditors told lawmakers in June. The legislative auditors say the effect has been consultants embedding themselves into the state to operate the system when the use of state employees would cost much less.
The auditors reviewed official, Formal Knowledge Transfer Sign-off documents and found that they were sometimes signed without evidence that actual teaching took place.
In some instances, signatures accompanied documents that had blank “completed on” sections with no corresponding completion dates.
“Further, the chief information officer and the project manager of wvOasis stated it was understood that these documents would be signed before the knowledge transfer was completed and that the knowledge transfer would be completed at some undefined later date,” the auditors wrote.
Auditors wrote that the signing of the Formal Knowledge Transfer Sign-Off documents served as authorization for CGI to invoice the state. The division questioned the invoices, which totaled $270,000.
“Many of these knowledge transfer areas are still not completed today,” the auditors wrote.
“Further, in addition to paying for services not yet rendered, it appears the lack of knowledge transfer to the state resulted in substantial indirect costs when the state had to contract with high-priced consultants to operate the ERP system.”
What’s more, the result was bringing yet a third high-priced consultant into the mix.
In that case it was Dataview, a company comprised of former CGI employees who were brought in to perform the teaching that CGI was supposed to have done.
The Legislative Auditor concluded that CGI may have violated its contract with the state to provide training and education so that the state could operate the system on its own. The Legislative Auditor noted the contract included provisions that prohibited prepayment for services not yet completed.
“A question remains as to whether the state has paid substantial money to additional contractors (ISG/ICAC and Dataview) on the wvOasis project for tasks CGI was contractually obligated, but failed, to perform.”
Similarly, the Legislative Auditor questioned whether ISG may be subject to contract violations, saying the consultant was responsible for subject matter expertise, project oversight and quality assurance.
“The Post Audit Division wonders how ISG could assure the quality of a deliverable that was not completed. It is unclear at this time whether ISG charged the state to review these documents and, if so, for exactly what service.”
In another issue involving wvOasis, legislative auditors focused on several areas relating to human resources where the system has lost functionality compared to the previous systems state government used.
“These areas identified by the Division of Personnel increases the state’s risk in adhering to relevant laws, rules and regulations; and may also have detrimental effects on state employees and the state budget,” legislative auditors wrote.
For example, the Division of Personnel reported the need to hire three additional staff at a cost of $97,000 to process transactions for all of the classified service because of inefficiencies with the system.
The problems included:
If a transaction is rejected in the system, the supporting documents, attachments and comments are discarded and cannot then be retrieved. Subsequent transactions submitted to correct the rejection don’t allow access to the discarded information to figure out why the transaction was initially rejected.
When an employee transfers to another agency and the transfer has been processed in wvOASIS, the prior agency can no longer access the employee’s work history documentation, and it also can’t enter any outstanding payroll transactions.
wvOASIS does not prohibit an employee from exceeding the 80-hour Family Sick Leave allotment in a given year, and it doesn’t track the use of Family Sick Leave in the timekeeping system.
The wvOASIS system lacks “hard stops” or edits to limit users from selecting criteria that are not applicable to the transaction they are processing. That means users may enter information that is not applicable or appropriate, which causes rejections of those transactions, making it unnecessarily time consuming to have to reprocess those transactions.
wvOASIS allows for the payment of sick and annual leave in the same work period where an employee works additional hours resulting in an overtime pay, which would be a violation of state personnel rules.
The wvOASIS system also allows the additional non-work hours from annual and sick leave to be paid at a premium overtime compensation rate of one and one-half times the employee’s hourly rate.
The timekeeping system in wvOasis creates issues for employees who are allowed an hour lunch, with half of the hour being paid and half of the hour being unpaid. The issue is that this requires weekly monitoring to ensure
that time is properly credited for any leave taken before or after the lunch hour.
“Inefficiencies such as these create additional unforeseen costs associated with the transition to wvOASIS that are at times difficult to identify and quantify,” legislative auditors wrote.
Legislators expressed frustration over the continued troubles with Oasis.
“I’m so sick and tired of hearing about this Oasis thing,” Senate President Mitch Carmichael said Sunday.
“These issues should never get to this point. It should never arise to this level that there are this many issues. Just the threat of it coming before this committee should cause people to get on the ball and get it done.”
McCuskey said much of the findings in the legislative audit were new to him, and he disagreed with the sweep of the findings.
“These are things we’ve never seen. And to say Oasis hasn’t trained the department of personnel is imply inaccurate. the training has been available,” McCuskey told legislators Sunday afternoon.
He said the findings of the audit should have come first to his office or to the oversight board consisting of the Auditor, the Treasurer and the governor and their representatives.
“I unfortunately disagree with the findings in this report as it relates to Kronos (a timekeeping system for state workers) and Oasis.”
Carmichael told him: “Whatever you have to do to make sure these issues are resolved.”
McCuskey responded: “Anyone who has a problem with Oasis, call me.”
House Speaker Tim Armstead also asked why there are ongoing problems being reported about how Oasis is integrating throughout state government. “Are we just having a lot of agencies that just don’t want to change their current system?”
“What we’re talking about is massive change,” McCuskey said. “Change is hard. Everyone hates change.”